The fragrance was phenomenal. We stood there in my aunt’s back yard and just soaked in the wafting smells that came from the nearby orange grove. The citrus perfume offered scents that lifted the spirits of all who took the time to take it in.

Her rose bushes were in full bloom, lush with color and aroma-laden. Glistening in the sun in their full beauty allowed us plenty of gawking pleasure. Her small lawn was immaculate. You just couldn’t do much better than to be sitting on the back porch, visiting with a cup of Joe in hand.

Her house was built three years ago, shortly after she sold her acreage and home of 42 years a couple of hours up Highway 99 in Merced, Calif. Now living in Visalia, Cindy asked her how she liked it. Not being one to mince words, Aunt Trudy quickly shot back, “I hate it!”

We wanted to take her into town for lunch, so on the way one of my teens commented about how pretty the palm trees were. Aunt Trudy again was swift to offer her two cents with a morbid tone, “They’re ugly!”

By now, I’m sure that you have caught on that my 82-year-old aunt is prone to be a bit negative.

It sort of reminded me of the humorous story I once heard about an old farmer who had a neighbor who was extremely negative. Both were farmers, so if they talked about their crops, “Looks like we are gonna get that rain we need,” the negative neighbor would say something like, “Yeah, but it probably will drown them out!”

So the farmer thought to himself, “I’m gonna teach him a lesson.” Both were avid duck hunters, and so he taught his dog how to walk on water. (Just a story folks.) The next time they went to their duck blind, shot a couple of ducks, he sent his dog out walking on the water to fetch their prey.

“What do you think about that?” the farmer asked his negative neighbor. Stroking his chin as he intently watched the dog, “Can’t swim can he.”

Well, that’s kind of like my dear aunt; nevertheless, we had a pleasant though brief visit with her.

Yes, here we are in sunny California for about two weeks. I have a couple of speaking engagements, and then Cindy and I will do a Marriage Encounter weekend in Sacramento. We had some air miles built up, so the kids got to come with us. What a joy it has been to have them along.

Seeing the terrain, the beautiful landscape, getting a feel for the cultural differences and taking in the vast Pacific Ocean has been quite an education for them. One they never would have gotten in the classroom alone.

One of the things that intrigued us all is the amount of agriculture that is a crucial part of California’s economy. Some call it the fruit basket of the nation, and I wouldn’t be prone to argue the point.

Seeing the acres and acres of orange and lemon groves was a thing of beauty. The immaculately straight rows that would run up the side of a small mountain, or looking upon the flat land full of orange blossoms as far as the eye can see was simply amazing.

At one point I missed a turn and ended up on a road surrounded by pistachio trees heavy with fruit. Then there were the almond trees, the avocados and the unbelievable strawberry fields — which we absolutely could not pass up! No fruit tastes quite as good as the one that is vine- or tree-ripened.

Everywhere we went, from Sacramento to Los Angeles, down through the central valley, the fields were flowing with a variety of luscious fruit in one stage or another of growth. We came through Stockton the day before their world renowned Asparagus Festival was to begin.

The Tomato Festival takes place later in the summer that will attract thousands, who will enjoy every possible type of tomato you could imagine. At least 50 different heirloom varieties will be available to taste, along with barbecue galore.

Known for its Mediterranean climate, California was the 31st state annexed in and added to the Union, in 1850. After the gold rush of the mid-1800s, both the state’s value and population increased dramatically.

Napa Valley’s beautiful vineyards grace the hilly landscape like a princess at a ball. Splendor drapes across the valley and over the hillsides as if to announce their regal arrival. The succulent fruit awaits the vinedresser’s skillful hand to set it free and release the aroma around the world.

It is said that if it has ended up in your stomach it probably came from California’s crops. Well, I now believe it. Our country’s most populous state, with more than 43 million residents, has more than Hollywood starlets, computer geeks and an ample cache of billionaires. It without a doubt is the breadbasket of the nation.

Randy Sheridan resides in Burleson. He is a speaker,

counselor and mediator.

He can be reached at

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